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Preview: Philip Booth's Scribe Life

Philip Booth's Scribe Life

Musings on Music (jazz + more), Film, Books, Writers + Writing, and Pop Culture

Last Build Date: Mon, 05 Mar 2018 19:29:26 +0000


Please Join Me at my new/old blogs - Between the Grooves, and Flickers & LIt

Wed, 13 Jan 2010 17:44:00 +0000

After a period of returning to Scribe Life for all of my music AND film coverage, I am reverting back to two separate blogs, both on WordPress.

Why? Because 1)Covering the waterfront on one blog tends to annoy/confuse readers; and 2)Wordpress is a superior blog publishing application, more easy to use, embed media, and update, and more likely to show up in searches.

So I'm mothballing Scribe Life, at least for the time being.

for music - Between the Grooves -

for film/books - Flickers and Lit -

THANK YOU for reading Scribe Life, and please join me at the above blogs.

Florida/New York Singer Whitney James Celebrates Her Debut CD

Thu, 07 Jan 2010 05:18:00 +0000

Rising-star jazz singer Whitney James, who splits her time between residences in Tierra Verde (the Tampa Bay area) and Astoria, Queens, has just released a startlingly impressive and mature debut CD, The Nature of Love, which also features the playing of acclaimed trumpeter and flugelhorn player Ingrid Jensen.My feature on Whitney runs Thursday in the St. Petersburg Times' Weekend entertainment section. Click here to link directly to that story. Or see below for the extended "director's cut" of the piece:A dance student since age five, and a musical theater enthusiast since the days when she and her sister and neighborhood kids put on shows and charged a dime a seat, singer Whitney James first took the stage at age nine. That's when she played Dorothy in a children's production of "The Wizard of Oz." The Chicago native, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, switched her focus to singing at age 10, when she embarked on classical vocal lessons with an opera singer.But the jazz bug bit hard when James was 13, courtesy of her mom, who bought the budding vocalist a pair of cassette tapes by legendary jazz singer Sarah Vaughan and bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker. "I absolutely fell in love with Sarah Vaughan. I couldn't get enough of her sound," said James, a Tierra Verde resident since relocating to the Tampa Bay area from Seattle in 2007. "The songs were so romantic and the lyrics were beautiful. "That tape really set me on the jazz path," she said. "You had to be yourself and interpret the lyric, certainly, but you also had to infuse yourself into the song. That way, you can really expand and explore the boundaries of your voice. Charlie took a little longer to grow on me. Sarah Vaughan and Charlie Parker were my gateway drugs to the jazz world, if you will."James demonstrates her allegiance to the jazz vocal tradition -- she also cites Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McCrae and Shirley Horn as major influences -- on her just-released debut CD, The Nature of Love. She's joined by New York jazz heavy hitters, including trumpeter and flugelhorn player Ingrid Jensen and a rhythm trio led by pianist Joshua Wolff, on a set of standards including "How Deep is the Ocean" and "The Very Thought of You." The singer also offers smart readings of a challenging Jimmy Rowles ballad, "A Timeless Place (The Peacocks)" and Benny Golson's hard-swinging "Whisper Not."For her CD-release concert, Friday night at the Palladium in St. Petersburg, James will be backed by Wolff and three stand-out local musicians -- saxophonist Jeremy Powell, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman. Although continuing to embrace recordings by jazz singers, James eventually rebuilt her jazz-singing concept on the sound of instrumentalists, she said. "Miles is a huge influence -- his tone and the way he plays is so gorgeous, so transformative," she said. "And I love Bill Evans, and Keith Jarrett, and Dexter Gordon. I had soaked myself in a lot of jazz singers, including Dinah Washington and Etta James. But I made a very conscious effort when I was 17 to stop listening to singers and start listening to horn players and guitar players and piano players."James continued her music studies at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, where she studied with singer Jay Clayton. She stayed in the Pacific Northwest for 13 years, finding her way to jazz and neo-soul gigs, along with opportunities to record commercial jingles.Clayton, who served as the CD's artistic consultant, suggested that James ask the Canadian-born Jensen to play on the recording. It made for a rather organic process, as James had worked with pianist Wolff and Jon Wikan, the CD's drummer, around Seattle. And Wikan is married to Jensen. James also has spent much time in New York in recent years, as she and her husband have a second home in Astoria, Queens.James spent one day rehearsing with the rhythm section and a second day with the band joined by Jensen before heading to the Brooklyn studio, where the group recorded live, playing no more than three takes of each tun[...]

Let the Right One In: More Love From UK Critics

Thu, 07 Jan 2010 02:37:00 +0000

Released in the U.S. to wide acclaim in 2008, Swedish horror shocker Let the Right One In (see my below posts) apparently didn't play many UK theaters until last year. And the critical reaction to the film, across the pond, was similar to the reaction it received stateside: Tomas Alfredson's alternately tender and violent tale of pre-teen angst, masquerading as a vampire flick, landed at No. 5 in the year-end poll of 60 critics conducted by the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound magazine.The full list (of 10), as might be expected, is a bit Eurocentric, with the French-Italian A Prophet at the top. Two entries are from Claire Denis, and also included is Antichrist, the latest typically provocative film from Sweden's Lars von Trier. It's reassuring to see Kathryn Bigelow's intense and brilliant war film The Hurt Locker land at No.2; Pete Docter's animated comic drama Up and Quentin Tarantino's cheeky WW II historical rewrite Inglourious Basterds are the other U.S. productions on the list.But back to Let the Right One In. Check out what the poll's critics had to say about the film:Leonardo Garcia-Tsao (Critic, Mexico) - Teenage angst meets vampirism in a meticulously crafted film that transcends genre conventions and finds beauty in alienation. Ryan Gilbey (‘New Statesman’, UK) - Few pictures have combined tenderness, compassion and extreme bloodletting to such memorable effect. I didn’t realise how protective I felt towards the film until I caught myself grinding my teeth at the news of a forthcoming US remake.Carmen Gray (Critic, UK) - With a soft spot for vampire films at the worst of times, I was touched by this very human, bittersweet take on the genre.Mark Kermode (Critic, UK) - This year’s Pan’s Labyrinth, in which Alfredson reinvents the vampire genre from scratch. Derek Malcolm (‘Evening Standard’, UK) - Vampire movies are two-a-penny just now, but this extraordinary Swedish effort is easily the best around — an art film with considerable commercial potential.Demetrios Matheou (‘Sunday Herald’, UK) - Amid the current craze for horror, this phenomenally well-crafted Swedish vampire film offers more bite than all the others put together. Sukhdev Sandhu (‘Daily Telegraph’, UK) - From documentaries such as Three Miles North of Molkom to the Wicker Man-sampling visuals of Gothenburg’s Sincerely Yours label, I spent a lot of 2009 being ravished by Sweden. Best of all was this exquisitely melancholic and heartbreakingly beautiful vampire love story that also featured my favourite exchange of dialogue: “Will you be my girlfriend?" “Oskar, I’m not a girl.”David Thompson (Critic and documentarian, UK) - Never mind the reinvention of vampires as soulful celibate lovers, this was a fabulous twist on the genre focusing on the theme of adolescent loneliness.I'm looking forward to revisiting Alfredson's film on Blu-ray.[...]

"Let Me In" - Release Date Announced

Wed, 06 Jan 2010 20:38:00 +0000

Quick Update: Let Me In, the U.S. remake of Swedish horror film Let the Right One In, is now slated for release on Oct. 1.

And director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) is now taking full credit for the screenplay (see my below post).

A rating is yet to be determined; here's hoping that the rough/violent edges aren't smoothed out to get the film to PG-13.

Will "Cop Out" and "Greenberg" Top the Best Comedies of 2010?

Wed, 06 Jan 2010 19:05:00 +0000

Too early to gauge which comedies will be the best of 2010?

Paste mag takes a stab, and several good directors and writers are on the list, including Kevin Smith (Cop Out), Noah Baumbach (Greenberg), Neil LaBute (Death at a Funeral, a remake of the Brit movie of the same name), and Todd Phillips (Due Date).

And Zach is back. Galifianakis, that is, a co-star of Phillips' breakout comedy The Hangover, and an inspired second fiddle on HBO's underappreciated comic noir series "Bored to Death." He's in the casts of Due Date and Jay Roach's Dinner for Schmucks.

For the picks, with video clips, click here.

Movie Remake Fever (2): Another Dune

Wed, 06 Jan 2010 13:24:00 +0000

David Lynch's sprawling sci-fi flick Dune, intriguingly photographed and ambitious if overlong and convoluted, was given a mostly lukewarm reception by critics upon its release in 1984, and died at the box office.

The film, adapted from Frank Herbert's book of the same name, the most popular sci-fi novel in history, and featuring the likes of Kyle McLachlan, Brad Dourif, Max von Sydow and Sting, became an expensive failure for both director and studio.

"Dune" was reborn in 2000, as a three-part, six-hour miniseries on the Sci Fi Channel, with a cast including William Hurt.

Third time's a charm? Herbert's 1969 novel is coming back to the big screen, with a film adaptation helmed by French director Pierre Morel, responsible for violent blockbuster Taken.

The screenplay reportedly is by rookie Joshua Zetumer, who contributed to the Quantum of Solace script. Peter Berg (Hancock), who was said to have worked on an early version of the new screenplay, was originally set to direct.

In October, FilmShaft reported that "New Moon" teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson was being considered for the lead role in the new "Dune."

For more about other, failed attempts to adapt "Dune," including a once planned 10-hour miniseries with Orson Welles and others, check out Ben Child's story in the Guardian (UK).

Remake of Swedish Vampire Classic: Will Reeves Let the Wrong One In?

Tue, 05 Jan 2010 18:48:00 +0000

A recent vampire classic from Europe based on a popular novel is being subjected to a Hollywood makeover. So will it, uh, suck?

Let Me In, Cloverfield director Matt Reeves' adaptation of Let the Right One In, the Swedish shocker released in the U.S. in late 2008, is slated for release this fall.

The original movie, detailing the relationship between a bloodthirsty vampire taking the form of a 12-year-old girl, and a bullied boy of the same age, counts as the best horror film of the decade, and one of the creepiest and most chilling movies I've ever seen; its penultimate sequence struck me as deeply disturbing.

Director Tomas Alfredson, working from a script which John Ajvide Lindqvist adapted from his novel, makes great use of the snowy environs, in and around the generic apartments and stores of suburban Stockholm. For those brave enough to venture even farther into the world created by Alfredson and Lindqvist, I'd recommend the book -- it's twice as explicit, graphic, kinky, and frightening.

It seems impossible that Let Me In won't be disappointing, given the brilliance of the original.

But there are several good signs, including the casting of Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) as the young boy, whose name is now Owen, rather than Oskar. The cast also includes Chloe Moretz, of (500) Days of Summer, as young vampire Abby (formerly Eli), the great Richard Jenkins as Abby's aged caretaker, and Elias Koteas.

Why did Reeves go for the remake, particularly so soon after the release of an original that was so well received?

Because of how it resonated with his own feelings about the yearnings and fears associated with adolescence, as he told the Los Angeles Times back in June.

"I was so taken with the story and I had a very personal reaction," he said. "It reminded me a lot of my childhood, with the metaphor that the hard times of your pre-adolescent, early adolescent moment, that painful experience is a horror.

"There's definitely people who have a real bull's-eye on the film," Reeves said, "and I can understand because of people's' love of the [original] film that there's this cynicism that I'll come in and trash it, when in fact I have nothing but respect for the film. I'm so drawn to it for personal and not mercenary reasons, my feeling about it is if I didn't feel a personal connection and feel it could be its own film, I wouldn't be doing it. I hope people give us a chance."

Let Me In is set in Colorado during the '80s, according to the L.A. Times. And it was shot in New Mexico, reports web site Cinematical.

Bad Movies Clogging Up the Multiplex? It's Not Just Your Imagination

Mon, 04 Jan 2010 19:20:00 +0000

Yes, there are exceptions to the rule. And thanks to the year-end push for critical favorites, there's a good chance a film as smart and funny as Up in the Air can be found on multiple screens in your neighborhood, at least for a couple more weeks.

But for those wondering why awful flicks like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Watchmen and G.I. Joe and The Ugly Truth so frequently squeeze worthwhile movies out of the multiplexes, here's a stat I just came across, from NY Times critic Manohla Dargis's round-up of the 2009 movie year.

"The question of consumer choice becomes all but moot when the Top 5 box office movies are playing on more than one-quarter of all the screens in America, as was the case during the first weekend of May, when “Star Trek” opened. That weekend 10 movies dominated 67 percent of the country’s screens. Three of those titles were released by Paramount. Warner Brothers and Disney had two movies each; 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures and the independent company Summit Entertainment each had one."

As Dargis points out, when the mega-budget, over-promoted movies are released, they hog practically all of the space available for movies: Revenge of the Fallen opened simultaneously on 4,000 screens in the U.S., and Angels & Demons opened simultaneously on 3,500 screens.

So, the upshot: More big screens for fewer movies made by fewer companies. That's the wrong kind of math, I think.

One obvious benefit to movie companies and distributors of so quickly spreading bad movies so far and so wide is that it makes those films even less immune to the slings and arrows of film critics, a group whose size and power seems to be diminishing by the day.

There are alternatives, of course, like tuning in to the Independent Film Channel (IFC) or the Sundance Channel, and pay-per-view, if you have cable; and keeping up with Netflix and pay-per-view offerings. I could always upgrade from my 32-inch flat screen to something gargantuan (if/when I have the funds).

But it's hardly the same thing as having access to first-rate films on a big screen, with good sound, in a theater, surrounded by other filmgoers.

Bonus overtime comment from Dargis, on Paramount Pictures' very good 2009: "Two of the year’s biggest hits, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” have helped the studio climb out of its financial hole with a combined domestic take of more than $500 million. Both movies are deeply stupid, often incoherent and hinged on the principle that the spectacle of violence is its own pleasurable end. “Transformers” is also casually racist. But hey, that’s entertainment."

2009's Fallen: The Musicians

Sun, 03 Jan 2010 01:24:00 +0000

R.I.P., guitarist Les Paul, drummer Louie Bellson, saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, singers Koko Taylor and Chris Connor, Ali Akbar Khan, Michael Jackson and too many more great musicians who passed away in 2009.

NPR Music remembers, with short tributes and audio clips.

The Best Jazz Discs of 2009

Thu, 31 Dec 2009 04:55:00 +0000

Jazz in 2009 meant the continuing dismantling and irrelevance of major-label homes for the music; the growth of vital indie jazz labels; the decision of many artists, including major jazzers, to take charge of recording, packaging and distributing their own work; and the emergence of a variety of strong new voices in jazz.Gloomsaying to the contrary, jazz is in very good shape, at least on the recording front. Now, about places for all those artists -- and younger players, graduating in droves from still-proliferating college jazz programs -- to play .... As promised, here are links to my list of 2009's best jazz discs, as published in the Village Voice, the Voice's complete jazz poll results, and Voice critic Francis Davis's overview of the year in jazz recordings.My own list of the year's best jazz recordings, with one-line descriptions, as published in Las Vegas City Life (but slightly expanded here):Allen Toussaint, The Bright Mississippi (Nonesuch) - The old-school R&B hitmaker digs deep into jazz roots, applying elegant piano to New Orleans chestnuts and pieces by Monk and Ellington.Chuck Owen & the Jazz Surge, The Comet's Tail: Performing the Compositions of Michael Brecker (MAMA) - The Florida-based big band revisits and reinvents the music of late saxophone great Brecker. David Binney, Third Occasion (Mythology) - The underappreciated alto saxophonist offers ambitious, expansive originals, with his quartet joined by brass. Tom Harrell, Prana Dance (Highnote) - The trumpeter leads his tight-knit quintet on compositions that are brainy yet emotionally engaging. Kurt Rosenwinkel Standards Trio, Reflections (Wommusic) - The most gifted jazz guitarist under 40 takes a break from his edgy originals for brilliant, shimmering readings of standards by the likes of Monk and Wayne Shorter.John Patitucci Trio, Remembrance (Concord) - The bassist's heavyweight pianoless trio, with saxophonist Joe Lovano and drummer Brian Blade, bring piercing original compositions replete with surprising detours. Fly, Sky and Country (ECM) - Saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard turn in fertile modern-jazz explorations.Joel Harrison, Urban Myths (Highnote) - The guitarist again draws from fusion, funk and blues for smart, multi-textured jazz originals.John Scofield, Piety Street (EmArcy) - Sco wields his tangy overdriven guitar for hard-grooving gospel pieces, driven by Meters bassist George Porter, Jr.New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Slither Slice (Threadhead) - The veteran brass band returns with horns chewy enough and funk deep enough to blast the competition.Vocals: Roberta Gambarini, So in Love (Emarcy) & Gretchen Parlato, In a Dream (Obliqsound) & Tierney Sutton, Desire (Telarc)Debut: Gerald Clayton, Two-Shade (ArtistShare) & Michael Janisch, Purpose Built (Whirlwind)Latin: Arturo O'Farrill, Risa Negra (Zoho) & Dafnis Prieto, Live at Jazz Standard NYC (Dafnison Music) & Omar Sosa, Across the Divide (Half Note)Reissues: Scott LaFaro, Pieces of Jade (Resonance) & Medeski Martin & Wood, Radiolarians: The Evolutionary Set (Indirecto) & Eddie Harris and Ellis Marsalis, Homecoming (ELM). And 10 more of the year's best jazz recordings:Vijay Iyer, Historicity (ACT)Joe Lovano, Folk Art (Blue Note) Joshua Redman, Compass (Nonesuch)Gary Burton-Pat Metheny-Steve Swallow-Antonio Sanchez, Quartet Live (Concord)Gary Peacock-Marc Copland, Insight (Pirouet)The Bad Plus with Wendy Lewis, For All I Care (Heads Up)Robert Glasper, Double Booked (Blue Note)Cedar Walton, Voices Deep Within (High Note)Christian McBride, Kind of Brown (Mack Avenue)James Carter-John Medeski-Christian McBride-Adam Rogers, Heaven on Earth (Half Note)[...]

Vijay Iyer Trio Tops Village Voice 2009 Jazz Poll

Tue, 29 Dec 2009 02:52:00 +0000

Acclaimed pianist Vijay Iyer's Historicity, a forward-thinking trio outing, has been named Album of the Year in the 4th annual Village Voice Critics poll.

I reviewed the CD earlier this year for Down Beat. Here's what I wrote: "A kind of dialogue -- ever in flux, constantly probing, frequently morphing, informed by disparate traditions but pushing toward new paradigms -- is at the heart of the performances on pianist Vijay Iyer's trio outing with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore. In the liner notes, Iyer describes that dialogue, on the cover tunes, as 'a conversation between the original work and something else entirely.' But there are also conversations here between form and freedom, light and dark tonalities, and, as the title suggests, jazz history and future jazz."

Also among the winners in the poll, surveying the best jazz releases of the year, as chosen by 99 jazz critics from around the world (including me) are the following:

Vocal: Gretchen Parlato, In a Dream (ObliqSound)
Debut: Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam)
Latin: Miguel Zenon, Esta Plena (Marsalis Music)
Reissue: Louis Armstrong, The Complete Decca Recordings, 1935-1946 (Mosaic)

Full poll results will be published in the Voice's Dec. 30 issue, and will be available online as early as Tuesday night. I'll follow up with a subsequent post, and include links to the results along with a link to my list.

Happy 40th Birthday to ECM Records

Sat, 26 Dec 2009 19:56:00 +0000

Has it really been four decades since German bassist and jazz LP collector Manfred Eicher (photo, above) launched the ECM label with pianist Mal Waldron's album Free at Last?

Yes, believe it or not, in 2009 ECM is celebrating its 40th anniversary. In a New York Times piece published earlier this week, Steve Smith writes about the origins and legacy of the noted classical and jazz label, home to pianist Keith Jarrett's great Standards Trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, among many other artists.

Writes Smith, " 'A music producer, as I understand it, should be a trained musician in order to work with musicians, the psychological aspects,' he (Eicher) said. 'To be in front of the microphone, alert to things, and be able to talk about intonation, phrasing and musical structure is very helpful. If you are a musician changing from one side of the microphone to the other side, to the control room, you’re a good listener, a patient listener.' "

Read the rest of the piece here.

Christmas Music: Jazz and More

Thu, 24 Dec 2009 14:35:00 +0000

There haven't exactly been sleighfuls of great Christmas music released this season, although Bob Dylan's holiday album has to count as the most surprising holiday oddity of this season or many others.Several yuletide recordings, though, have risen to the top, including the following:The Putumayo folks have again applied their big ears to a search for eclectic holiday music, and they've come up with another keeper, A Family Christmas. As per Putumayo tradition, the sources are diverse and the music generally falls into the category of rootsy/earthy. Highlights: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's sassy, swinging "Is Zat You Santa Claus?," Leon Redbone's sly, laidback "Let It Know," Brave Combo's polka-hopping "Jolly Old St. Nick" and the bluesy "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus," from The Christmas Jug Band featuring Angela Strehli and Maria Muldaur. Sample here. Threadhead Records, the fan-funded label created by devotees of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, this year offered its first yuletide collection, A Very Threadhead Holiday. It's a uniformly terrific collection of originals and classics. Picks: Bonerama leader Craig Klein's "Christmas On My Mind," a Fats-style brassy gem; Debbie Davis's ukelele-driven version of '50s-vintage "Hanging Up My Stockings"; Matt Perrine's tuba choir on "Carol of the Bells"; John Boutte's romantic, soulful "Holding You This Christmas"; trumpeter Shamarr Allen's trad-jazz "Santa Passed My House Up"; and Alex McMurray's bluesy, boozy "Santa, Let Me Call You a Cab." It's a real collaboration, as these dozen tracks feature much mixing and matching of great NOLA talent. Downloads here. Trio West takes a second trip to the Christmas stocking with Plays Holiday Songs, Vol. 2 (Yummyhouse Records), another set of tightly constructed familiarities played by pianist Eldad Zvulun, bassist Neal Miner, and drummer Tobias Gebb (who arranged the tunes and produced the session). The three turn in a funk-edged "O Tannenbaum," a samba version of "Silent Night" and a gently grooving "We Three Kings Waltz." The group clearly was aiming for breezy get-in-and-out-of-the-tune brevity, but it would have been nice to hear these simpatico players stretch out more. Downloads here. Jazzy Brass for the Holidays (DBCD) is halfway brass choir, halfway straight-ahead jazz, with pleasant arrangements of seasonal chestnuts played by an all-star group frontloaded with brass -- trumpeters Eddie Allen and Cecil Bridgewater, trombonist Clark Gayton, and W. Marshall Sealy on French horn (yes, he improvises, too). Latin jazz is in the mix, with "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and it's all driven by a pianoless rhythm section, with bassist Kenny Davis and Carl Allen on drums and glockenspiel.[...]

Christmas Tune of the Day: Sharon Jones' "Ain't No Chimneys in the Projects"

Wed, 23 Dec 2009 22:44:00 +0000

I'm cranking up the soulful vocals, old-school R&B groove, and popping horns of "Ain't No Chimneys in the Projects," from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - one of the highlights of this year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Listen here (thanks to NPR).

Florida Critics Honor "Up in the Air"

Mon, 21 Dec 2009 18:18:00 +0000

Jason Reitman's comic drama Up in the Air has landed top honors in this year's Florida Film Critics Circle (FFCC) Awards, with prizes for best picture, Reitman's direction and George Clooney's performance as a corporate axeman.

Precious, the FFCC's other big winner, a disturbing inner-city drama directed by Lee Daniels, won two top acting honors -- Gabourey Sidibe, best actress, and the group's Pauline Kael Breakout Award, in the title role; and hip-hop star and TV personality Mo'Nique, for best supporting actress.

The complete list of winners:

Picture: Up In The Air
Actor: George Clooney, Up In The Air
Actress: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Supp. Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Supp. Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious
Director: Jason Reitman, Up In The Air
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber, (500) Days of Summer
Cinematography: Mauro Fiore, Avatar
Foreign Language: Sin Nombre
Animated Feature: Up
Documentary: The Cove
Breakout: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Golden Orange: No Award

Founded in 1996, the Florida Film Critics Circle is comprised of 17 writers from state publications. Dan Hudak of has served as chairman since March 2008. For more information on the FFCC, visit

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: New CD and National Tour in 2010

Fri, 18 Dec 2009 20:54:00 +0000

Aside from a decade or so when big bands were all the rage, keeping a large jazz ensemble in top playing shape, ensuring that the group has the right players for the right positions, matching the band with the appropriate arrangements, and dealing with all the logistical and organizational challenges has always been an iffy proposition.Taking a big band on the road and/or taking care of all the detail work required to record, package and properly distribute a big band CD can be even more challenging, particularly in a financial contraction as profound as the one we're now facing.The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, led by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, nevertheless has plans to hit all of those targets in 2010 (yes, it's true that federal funding helps keep J@LC alive, and I'm glad of it, no matter what John McCain or anyone else has to say about it). First up is Portrait in Seven Shades, the JLCO's first widely distributed studio CD since Don't Be Afraid: The Music of Charles Mingus (Palmetto), released in 2005. Due Feb. 2, 2010, the recording features saxophonist Ted Nash's titular suite, with seven movements, each inspired by the work of a modern art master -- Chagall, Dali, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Pollack, and Van Gogh. Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, on tuba, violinist Nathalie Bonin, and accordionist Bill Schimmel will make guest appearances on the recording, the group's first to be distributed by The Orchard.Next up are the debut performances of the concert, with the orchestra joined by Bonin, Schimmel, and Clark Gayton on tuba, Feb. 4-6 at JALC's Rose Hall. The music will be augmented by lighting design and projections of the CD's artwork.Finally, the JLCO gets back on the road, with a U.S. tour slated to open March 1 in Washington, D.C., and close with a performance March 29 at Lee Hall on the FAMU campus in Tallahassee, the closest this particular tour gets to my area.Music from the new CD and compositions by Count Basie and Mary Lou Williams, among other artists, will be included in the repertoire for the touring show.Last time I caught Wynton and the LCJO was at this year's Jazz Fest, when they performed the "Congo Square" suite, with guest African drummers, on the Congo Square stage. It was a texture-rich, sometimes moving (if overlong) exploration of jazz's roots in African rhythms, and the music's development in New Orleans and beyond. The concert pic, above, is one I shot at that performance.[...]

U.S. House Salutes Miles and Honors Jazz; Will Words = Action?

Thu, 17 Dec 2009 03:24:00 +0000

Get Miles?The U.S. House of Representatives apparently does (or is striking the right pose), and hopes that you do, too. By a vote of 409-0, the House on Tuesday approved the passage of H.Res.894, which honors the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis's classic Kind of Blue album and calls jazz "a national treasure." Yes, it's never too late to salute the modal masterpiece, which has Miles' moody trumpet topping textures supplied by pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, saxophonists John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb. A two-disc Legacy edition of the album, with alternate takes and an extended live version of "So What," was released in January. In the "whereas" prelude, remarkably enough, the resolution points out that the album was certified quadruple-platinum (4 million copies sold) last year by the RIAA; that it was recognized as the best-selling recording in jazz history; and that it "continues to be the standard masterpiece of jazz for American musicians and audiences." Nicely stated, and mostly true.Here's what the resolution does:(1) honors the 50th anniversary of `Kind of Blue’ and recognizes the unique contribution the album has made to American jazz;(2) directs the Clerk of the House of Representatives to transmit enrolled copies of this resolution to Columbia Records;(3) encourages the United States Government to take all appropriate steps to preserve and advance the art form of jazz music;(4) recommits itself to ensuring that musical artists such as Miles Davis and his Sextet receive fair protection under the copyright laws of the United States for their contributions to culture in the United States; and(5) reaffirms the status of jazz as a national treasure.The resolution was sponsored by Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat, who said Miles' group "made musical history and changed the artistic landscape of this country and in some ways the world." As Seattle trumpeter Jason Parker suggests on his One Working Musician blog, it's great when important people say nice things about jazz. But lip service ain't enough.Parker offers several good strategies to help the House -- and oh yeah, where's the Senate? -- turn words into action, including getting more of that governmental arts funding directly into the hands of local arts organizations, and making sure that jazz isn't left out of the mix when it comes to arts funding.How else can jazz lovers with power and/or deep pockets help honor jazz? Here's one way: Launch an organization, with an affiliated international conference, that's as large and influential as the International Association for Jazz Education once was.The IAJE, previously known as the International Association of Jazz Educators, served as a global clearing house and common ground for jazz educators, musicians, recording labels, radio people, critics, managers and practically everyone else with a stake in the future of jazz. And then, a couple of years ago, the organization imploded over fiscal irregularities, to say the least. It's time for the rise of another jazz organization as ambitious and jazz-connected as the IAJE. And maybe Conyers' resolution will give that cause just the boost it needs.[...]

Tampa Bay Area Music Calendar (An Entirely Subjective and Selective Listing)

Wed, 16 Dec 2009 12:55:00 +0000

Parameters for this list: All the shows I'd want to see, given all the $$ and, mostly, time, in the world. Feel free to send concert info, but please understand that this list is not intended to be comprehensive. Got corrections/updates? Send them.Trombone Shorty (photo, above) w/ Elliott Cohn's Cosmic Sweat Society - Saturday, Jan 9, Skipper's, 8 p.m.Zach Deputy w/ Rob Anthony - Sunday, Jan. 10, Skipper's, 5 p.m.James Gibbs III/Jordan Richardson Quintet - Jan. 15, Mahaffey Theater, 7:30 p.m.Marcia Ball w/ The Venturas - Jan. 17, Skipper's, 6 p.m.Statesmen of Jazz: Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar), Bob Wilber (clarinet/sax), Rosanno Sportiello (piano), Antii Sarpila (sax), Nicki Parrott (bass), Jeff Barnhart (piano), Ed Metz, Jr. (drums) - Jan. 20, Palladium Theater, 7:30 p.m. Gov't Mule - Jan. 21, Ritz Theatre, 8:30 p.m.Subdudes w/ Beth McKee - Jan. 29, Skipper's, 8 p.m.Big Sam's Funky Nation w/ Rosie Ledet - Jan. 30, Skipper's, 8 p.m.Boogie Woogie/Blues Piano Stomp: Bob Seeley, Liz Pennock, Ricky Nye, Barry Cuda - Jan. 30, Palladium Theater, 8 p.m. Ira Sullivan - Jan. 31, HCC Performing Arts Building Theater, Ybor City (details TBA; Tampa Jazz Club show)B.B. King & Buddy Guy - Feb. 5, Ruth Eckerd Hall, 8 p.m.Harry Connick Jr. - Feb. 12, Ruth Eckerd HallThe Wailers - Feb. 12, Ritz Theatre Yonder Mountain String Band - Feb. 13, The Ritz, 9 p.m.Whitney James - Feb. 13, Palladium TheaterWillie Nelson - Feb. 14, Busch GardensIvan Neville's Dumpstaphunk w/ The Jim Morey Band - Feb. 21, Skipper'sDave Alvin & Two Guilty Women w/ Amanda Shires - Feb. 27, Skipper's, 8 p.m.Ladysmith Black Mambazo - March 2, Mahaffey Theater, 7 p.m.Roy Book Binder - March 5, Palladium Theater, 8 p.m.Chuck Prophet w/ Peter Mulvey - March 13, Skipper's, 8 p.m.Zakir Hussain - March 18, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center Ferguson Hall, 8 p.m.Wilco - March 23, Ruth Eckerd HallG. Love and Special Sauce - March 26, Ritz Theatre, 9 p.m. Pat Metheny - April 9, Ruth Eckerd Hall, 8 p.m.VENUES--------------------------------------------------------Mahaffey Theater @ Progress Energy Center for the Arts, 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg; (727) 892-5798New World Brewery, 1313 E. Eighth Ave., Ybor City (Tampa); 813 248-4969The Palladium Theater at St. Petersburg College, 253 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg; 727 822-3590The Ritz Theatre, 1503 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City (Tampa); 813 247-2555Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N. McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater; 727 791-7400Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road, Tampa; (813) 971-0666[...]

Allman Brothers, Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello, Jeff Beck, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, B.B. King Among Headliners at Jazz Fest

Tue, 15 Dec 2009 12:49:00 +0000

Let the FOMS (fear of missing something) begin.

The lineup for this year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was announced early this morning, just after midnight. And the mix of major national pop/rock acts, New Orleans and regional Louisiana acts, and top-shelf jazz and world-music performers is as impressive as ever.

The upshot: Jazz Fest fans, and first-timers, are going to have a tough time deciding which weekend to attend - April 23-25 or April 29-May 2. It's a good problem for the fest to have.

As a likely first-weekender, thanks to the Allman Brothers, I'm particularly excited to see a couple of acts that I had hoped/"predicted" would make it - Levon Helm, the Black Crowes - plus tons more.

Also among those I'm most excited to see first weekend:
Jazz (from New Orleans and elsewhere): Joe Lovano Us Five, Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra,, the Guitar Woodshed Featuring Steve Masakowski, Todd Duke, and Jake Eckert
African: King Sunny Ade, Baaba Maal
Reggae: Steel Pulse
Gospel: Blind Boys of Alabama
Funk: George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic
Modern rock: My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses
New Orleans/Louisiana regional: Dr. John, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Papa Grows Funk, Terrance Simien, Bonerama, Theresa Andersson, Big Sam, Davell Crawford and One Foot in the Blues With Dr. John and Jon Cleary, Funky Meters, Voice of the Wetlands, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Davell Crawford, Irma Thomas' Tribute to Mahalia Jackson.
Not to mention the act TBA: Great if Paul McCartney or Tom Petty, big so-what (IMHO) if Buffett.

Second weekend's notables:
Jazz (from New Orleans and elsewhere): Wayne Shorter Quartet, Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, Stanley Clarke Band, Astral Project, Ellis Marsalis, Henry Butler, Marcus Miller, Shannon Powell's Organ Combo Featuring David Torkanowsky and Charlie Gabriel, Gil Scott Heron, Take Six
Classic rock/modern rock: Pearl Jam, Jeff Beck, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes
Jamband: Gov't Mule, Widespread Panic, Blues Traveler
Blues: Derek Truck & Susan Tedeschi, B.B. King, Sonny Landreth, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Bernard Allison
World music: Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, Kora Konnection Featuring Morikeba Kouyate of Senegal and Theirno Doubate of Guinea
New Orleans and Louisiana regional: Neville Brothers, Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint,Galactic, the Radiators, Trombone Shorty, Kermit Ruffins, Beausoleil, Beausoleil, the Iguanas, Russell Batiste, Kirk Joseph, Paul Sanchez, Rebirth Brass Band, Anders Osborne, Cyril Neville, Aaron Neville, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk
Other: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Richie Havens

One quibble: "Jazz" is part of the festival's first name, so to speak. And despite the number of great jazz acts from New Orleans, the list of world-class jazzers from elsewhere is shorter than in previous years.

For the full lineup for each weekend, go to the Jazz Fest site. The "cubes" - day-by-day, hour-by-hour schedule - are due in January or February.

Jazz Fest 2010 Lineup Announcement: Tonight after Midnight (Central Time)

Mon, 14 Dec 2009 21:00:00 +0000

Can't wait until tomorrow to check out the talent headed to the Crescent City for next year's 41st annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival?

The list of artists playing each weekend at the fest, April 23-25 and April 29-May 4, will be available tonight just after midnight, New Orleans time (1 a.m. EST) at the online companion site to Offbeat, the great monthly NOLA music magazine. So when the time comes, click here.

Here's Offbeat's note about its plans for unveiling the lineup.

For the list of artists rumored - or definitely scheduled - to play Jazz Fest, check out my post from last week.

Up in the Air Tops Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards

Mon, 14 Dec 2009 20:18:00 +0000

Up in the Air, Jason Reitman's alternately funny and surprisingly touching comic drama about the misadventures of a corporate axe man, was named best picture of the year in the 18th Annual Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards.The film also scored awards for George Clooney, for best actor, and Reitman and Sheldon Turner, for their adaptation of the Walter Kirn novel.Kathryn Bigelow was named best director for her work on the intense and disturbing The Hurt Locker, set in wartime Iraq.The other major acting awards went to Meryl Streep (best actress), who portrayed celebrated cook Julia Child in Julie & Julia; Christoph Waltz (best supporting actor) as a frighteningly sly SS officer in Inglourious Basterds; and hip-hop star Mo'Nique, as an emotionally abusive mother from hell in Precious.The funny and romantic (500) Days of Summer won for best original screenplay, for a script co-written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, while Pixar's Up barely edged out Wes Anderson's stop-motion gem Fantastic Mr. Fox for best animated feature. Food, Inc. won for best documentary. Writer-director Scott Teems’ That Evening Sun, featuring Hal Halbrook's sterling portrayal of an aging, bitter Tennessee farmer facing the loss of his home, won the Wyatt Award for the most outstanding Southern-themed film. I was one of the 44 critics who participated in this year's voting, and I'm happy to report that so many of my favorites -- including The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, and many of the below mentioned films -- landed in the Top 10 or otherwise gained attention.BEST PICTURE1. Up in the Air2. The Hurt Locker3. Up4. Inglourious Basterds5. A Serious Man6. (500) Days of Summer7. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire8. The Messenger9. Fantastic Mr. Fox10. District 9BEST ACTORGeorge Clooney – Up in the Air* Runner-up: Jeremy Renner – The Hurt LockerBEST ACTRESSMeryl Streep – Julie & Julia* Runner-up: Gabourey Sidibe – Precious: Based on the Novel Push bySapphireBEST SUPPORTING ACTORChristoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds* Runner-up: Woody Harrelson – The MessengerBEST SUPPORTING ACTRESSMo’Nique – Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire* Runner-up: Anna Kendrick – Up in the AirBEST DIRECTORKathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker* Runner-up: Jason Reitman – Up in the AirBEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAYScott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber - (500) Days of Summer* Runner-up: Mark Boal – The Hurt LockerBEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAYJason Reitman and Sheldon Turner – Up in the Air* Runner-up: Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach – Fantastic Mr. FoxBEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILMSummer Hours (France)* Runner-up: The White Ribbon (Germany)BEST DOCUMENTARYFood, Inc.* Runner-up: The CoveBEST ANIMATED FEATUREUp* Runner-up: Fantastic Mr. FoxWYATT AWARDThat Evening Sun* Runner-up: Goodbye SoloThe Southeastern Film Critics Association is comprised of journalistsfrom nine states in the Southeast.[...]

TubaChristmas Drops Anchor at The Pier in St. Petersburg

Fri, 11 Dec 2009 15:45:00 +0000

The tubas are coming!

As many as 50 tuba players, including professionals, students and hobbyists from around the Tampa Bay area, are descending on The Pier in St. Petersburg for Saturday night's TubaChristmas.

David Manson, trombonist/composer and St. Petersburg College music prof, will conduct the low-brass players on "The First Noel," "The Wassail Song," "Deck the Halls" and other Christmas favorites, arranged by Alec Wilder and Norlan Bewley.

St. Pete's concert, coordinated by Lisa-Marie Leihy, is one of nearly 250 TubaChristmas events around the world, Manson says.

"The event began in 1974 and continues as a tribute to William Bell, the great father of tuba who was born on Christmas Day in 1902," he says. "This year, 248 cities are participating."

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. at the Waterside Courtyard at The Pier, (under a canopy) 800 Second Ave., N.E., in St. Petersburg. Admission is free.

Click here for more info on the worldwide TubaChristmas concerts. St. Petersburg's concert is reportedly one of six TubaChristmas events this year in Florida.

Weirdest Jazz Story of the Year: Spain's (Sort of) Jazz Police Investigate Saxophonist Larry Ochs

Fri, 11 Dec 2009 14:19:00 +0000

Kenny G wields his chirpy soprano sax for bland instrumental pop, markets it as jazz, makes a mint, and nobody bats an eye. Aside from, you know, curmudgeonly music critics (like me).So it's odd, and more than a little amusing, to hear that Larry Ochs, the first-rate, highly creative saxophonist was hassled in Spain on Monday night by a festivalgoer who contended that the Larry Ochs Sax and Drumming Core erred on the side of being too contemporary, and not adequately jazzy.According to a story in the UK's Guardian newspaper, Spanish police raided the Siguenza Jazz Festival after a concertgoer complained about Ochs' music.Where are the Jazz Police when you really need them? They'd really come in handy when a certain local festival turns over all its headlining positions to boring "smooth jazz" acts. I'd welcome the Jazz Police to help keep incessant talkers and noisemakers from rudely ruining my enjoyment of concerts. And maybe pianist Keith Jarrett would cease his godawful audible humming -- which sometimes spoils otherwise brilliant solo and trio performances -- if there were a chance that the Jazz Police would intervene.By the way, Ochs' group played the EMIT series at St. Petersburg's Dali Museum on Oct. 10. Thanks to EMIT director and trombonist/bandleader David Manson for reminding me.For more info on the Larry Ochs Sax and Drumming Core, click here. Listen to the group's tune "And Nothing But" here. The full text of the story is below:Spanish fan calls police over saxophone band who were just not jazzy enoughFestival-goer claims it was 'psychologically inadvisable' for him to hear Larry Ochs Sax and Drumming Core performJazzman Larry Ochs has seen many things during 40 years playing his saxophone around the world but, until this week, nobody had ever called the police on him.That changed on Monday night however, when's Spain's pistol-carrying Civil Guard police force descended on the Sigüenza Jazz festival to investigate allegations that Ochs's music was not, well, jazz.Police decided to investigate after an angry jazz buff complained that the Larry Ochs Sax and Drumming Core group was on the wrong side of a line dividing jazz from contemporary music.The jazz purist claimed his doctor had warned it was "psychologically inadvisable" for him to listen to anything that could be mistaken for mere contemporary music.According to a report in El País newspaper yesterday, the khaki-clad police officers listened to the saxophone-playing and drumming coming from the festival stage before agreeing that the purist might, indeed, have a case.His complaint against the organisers, who refused to return his money, was duly registered and will be passed on to a judge."The gentleman said this was not jazz and that he wanted his money back," said the festival director, Ricardo Checa."He didn't get his money. After all, he knew exactly what group he was going to see, as their names were on the festival programme.He added: "The question of what constitutes jazz and what does not is obviously a subjective one, but not everything is New Orleans funeral music."Larry Ochs plays contemporary, creative jazz. He is a fine musician and very well-renowned.""I thought I had seen it all," Ochs, who reportedly suffered a momentary identity crisis, told El País. "I was obviously mistaken.""After this I will at least have a story to tell my grandchildren," the California-based saxophonist added.[...]

The Garden in St. Pete is NOT closing

Thu, 10 Dec 2009 22:46:00 +0000

Great news: It looks like the longest-running jazz gig in the Tampa Bay area is going to keep on keeping on.

The Garden, in downtown St. Petersburg, is changing hands but staying open, and ex-Ellington trombonist Buster Cooper is keeping his gig. That's according to Laura Reiley's story in the St. Petersburg Times. Click here to read.

The new owners, according to the story: Bill Edwards and brothers Tommy and Vagelis Varlas. Reiley writes, "Edwards is also partner with Jannus Landing's new minority owner, Jeff Knight; the Varlas brothers have been in the restaurant business for many years, most recently in St. Pete Beach."

Tommy Varlas told Reiley about several planned upgrades to the eatery, located in a building dating back to 1890: "Effective immediately, we're putting money into it, giving it a facelift with new lighting and updated bathrooms."

Thanks to blog reader Headless Hornman -- also a fellow chatter on the (New Orleans) Jazz Fest board -- for pointing it out.

Up in the Air: Best Film of the Year? (movie review)

Thu, 10 Dec 2009 16:41:00 +0000

Up in the Air, a terrific and timely comedy directed by Jason Reitman, has opened in several cities nationally, and will open soon in the Tampa Bay area (the 12/11 opening has been bumped). My review will be published in Folio Weekly, and I'll link to it here. Meanwhile, here's the full text.Up in the Air Stars George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, and Anna Kendrick. Directed and written by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, adapted from the Walter Kirn novel. 109 minutes; rated R.Anyone ever fired, thereby joining a club whose membership has lately expanded at an alarming rate, understands that losing a job is a bit like experiencing a death. In one fell swoop, you're suddenly separated from the people, the place and the professional obligations you've come to know so intimately for months or years or decades, not to mention the income that has supported your way of life.That reality takes center stage, thanks to a series of interviews with real-life laid-off workers mixed in with cameos by such actors as Zach Galifianakis and J.K. Simmons, in Up in the Air, filmmaker Jason Reitman's follow-up to 2007's critically acclaimed Juno. "This is what I get in return for 30 years of service?" one man asks, in disbelief. Those montages make for humane, poignant touches, adding to the topical currency of a movie that's as funny, smart and sexy as any American film released this year. No matter if the ending is a little pat, and viewers are left feeling somewhat less than emotionally engaged by any of the characters in Reitman's script, adapted from the Walter Kirn novel of the same name.The angel of career death, regularly descending from the unfriendly skies to drop the axe, is Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), road warrior for a company whose employees do the dirty work for clients unwilling to handle the nasty chore of firing employees. The movie's opening sequence, all split screens and overhead shots of cities and farmland, deserts and mountains, charged up with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings' soulful, hard-grooving R&B version of "This Land is Your Land," defines the protagonist's territory. Delivering the bad news -- "You have an opportunity here, Bob. This is a rebirth," he tells the just-fired aging worker played by Simmons -- the coolly efficient, smooth-talking Bingham is bad, and nationwide: He flies to Dallas, St. Louis, Wichita, Kansas City, Des Moines, Detroit and all points between, occasionally touching down in Omaha to visit the home office of the optimistically named Career Transition Counseling. In voiceover, he says that last year he spent 322 days on planes and in Hilton hotels, rental cars and airport bars, and the worst part of it all was those 43 days he was stuck at home.Bingham's itinerant lifestyle is threatened by the arrival of young go-getter Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who convinces their CTC boss (Jason Bateman) to agree to a new scheme, a plan allowing the company to accomplish the firings via video link, thereby cutting the travel budget by 85 percent. But prior to the launch of the new system, Bingham is asked to take his young colleague on a road trek to experience the firings first-hand. At the very least, he figures he'll keep moving toward his goal of notching 10 million air miles. When Bingham isn't bickering with Natalie or working toward a grudging respect for her, he's spending his emotional and sexual energy on leggy, attractive Alex Goran (Vera Farm[...]